Monday, November 08, 2010

OPINION: David Hicks finally gets to tell his story on his own terms

There are many good reasons to buy David Hicks’ long awaited memoir Guantanamo: My Journey. One is to find out what happened to this young man without any adverse filtering from nasty pundits who would have us believe Hicks is the anti-Christ.

Naturally not everyone is pleased with Hicks’ work. John Howard, the Prime Minister who left Hicks to rot at Guantanamo for years, recently said on the Q&A program that there was ...

... a lot of criticism of that book from sources unrelated to me and I’ve read some very severe criticisms of that book.

Writing in The Australian, Sally Neighbour claims that Hicks hasn’t been forthcoming and honest. She writes:

Hicks’s firsthand account was awaited with keen interest by historians, academics and journalists who have followed these events. It has also been anticipated by the thousands of Australians who joined the Fair Go for David campaign for Hicks’s release. Hicks describes the book as the first opportunity to tell his story. In fact he’s had many such opportunities, in the form of scores - probably hundreds - of interview requests, all of which he has declined, choosing instead to write his story himself, thereby avoiding the discomfort of having his version of events questioned.

Having gone through years of abuse and torture culminating in the kangaroo court officially referred to as the “military tribunal”, one can hardly blame Hicks for refusing to undergo a trial by media. Especially from journalists who don’t venture into international trouble spots without interpreters and whose knowledge of militant groups is limited to the latest offerings from socalled socalled terrorism “experts”.

It won’t surprise many Muslims to learn that Hicks’ first exposure to Islam was from some Tablighi Jamaat people in Adelaide. Some journalists would have you believe that the TJ are an extremist organisation with links to terrorist groups. I remember once receiving an angry phone call from a senior writer for The Oz about a posting on my blog in which I lampooned her characterisation of TJ as a “secretive group” with a hidden agenda. She claimed to have done thorough research on the TJ, yet did not know the six points of tabligh and was not even aware on which night and in which mosque the TJ met in Sydney.

Still, enough media-bashing. Time for some lawyer-bashing. In his book Torture Team: Deception, Cruelty and the Compromise of Law, international law professor Phillipe Sands, QC, exposes unethical Defence Department lawyers joining forces with neo-conservative politicians to produce the Acton Memo. This document, signed by Donald Rumsfeld on December 2, 2002, enabled interrogators at Guantanamo Bay (and later at Abu Ghraib) to lawfully commit acts of torture in violation of Article 3 of the Geneva Convention.

The Americans landed in Abu Ghraib partly because of “intelligence” provided by a CIA
prisoner. Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libbi, is said to have been subjected to waterboarding that proved so effective that he provided false evidence of a link between al-Qaeda and the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein which led to the 2003 invasion. Al-Libbi made these fabricated claims as he was terrified of further harsh treatment.

Still, that is all ancient history. President Obama is in power, embracing Muslims with open arms. The days of torture are gone. Or are they?

The Washington Post reported on February 1, 2009, that Obama issued executive orders allowing the CIA to carry on with renditions. He further allowed the CIA to detain suspects in facilities used only to hold people on a shortterm, transitory basis. America will effectively now outsource Guantanamo-type operations to the generals, sheikhs, colonels, dictators and presidents-for-life who will no doubt torture not just those deemed terror suspects by the US but also domestic political opponents.

Anyway, go out and by David Hicks’ book. Whether you believe him or not, his book makes riveting reading.

* Irfan Yusuf is a Melbourne based lawyer and author. He recently published his first book Once Were Radicals: My Years As A Teenage Islamo-fascist. This column was first published in Issue 25 of the Crescent Times in November 2010.

Words © 2010 Irfan Yusuf

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